Look out for Lantz's flying batons

Jere Lantz

Jere Lantz has been music director of the Rochester Symphony Orchestra & Chorale since Jimmy Carter was in the White House, but you wouldn't know it by how molto vivace he is on the podium.

Lantz, 64, grew up in East Stroudsburg, Pa., and studied at Yale University, where he started out in the "dismal science," economics, and wound up in the glorious science of music. In addition to his commitments in Rochester, he's music director of the Minneapolis Pops Orchestra and has two or three other regular gigs in the Twin Cities. He and his wife, Kristina, live in Excelsior.

Your wife is a violinist in the orchestra. Does she take direction well?

During rehearsal, she does very well. Outside of rehearsal, I take the direction. And during the performance, it's every man for himself.

Have you ever broken a baton during a concert — or after, for that matter?


I've never broken one, but I have occasionally lost one … They sometimes go flying. I lost one once, and it flew back into the cello section. I waited until the movement was over to retrieve it. It was more than a little embarrassing.

I've never broken one afterward because I love my sticks too much. I had them custom-made, with handles made of cork and shaped to my hand so they don't go flying. And I got eight of them for $24, which is a bargain. But the man who made them for me has since gone to his reward. I'm now down to two.

Are standing ovations overrated?

They're not overrated, but they're overdone. They happen too often and become customary. I find that Minnesota audiences have a remarkable quotient for applause. They're very eager to stand and give an ovation, they clap for 10 seconds and they're gone. In New York, you might get any number of curtain calls; in Minnesota, it's huge but brief.

Have you ever gone into the audience and told someone to either answer their cellphone or turn it off?

I haven't — but at one time early in my career, I repeated some lines that Leopold Stokowski used when he found audiences were noisy — this was pre-cellphone days. Stokowski said, "A painter paints his pictures on canvas — we paint ours on silence. We'll provide the music; you provide the silence."

How many tuxedos do you have in your closet?

At least four. My latest one is from Men's Wearhouse … " I like the way I look. "


Jay Furst writes the Five Questions every weekend in the Post-Bulletin. Only five questions, not one question more — though if you want leftovers, go to the Furst Draft blog at Next up: Tom Ryan, Olmsted County parks superintendent.

What To Read Next
Get Local